Why Pilates should be part of your daily to-do list, says Ashleigh Sharman.
Whatever you’re doing right now, stop. Whether it’s slumped over your desk or head down in a mobile device consider your posture — does your lower back ache, your neck feel tense or your shoulders feel tight? Such is modern life that we have grown accustomed to a new ‘alignment’.
But why should we worry about our posture at work? Surely there are many more pressing issues to deal with?
“This is a common question, but people forget that they spend most of their day at work,” says Rhiannon Hooper, a Sydney-based Pilates Instructor who runs successful Pilates in the Workplace workshops.
“Poor alignment throughout your day can likely cause bad postural habits. Ultimately, this can lead to injuries; predominantly back and neck pain that is purely a result of standing and sitting incorrectly.”
Rhiannon cites neck and lower back pain, headaches and wrist strain and the most common complaints from clients but says simply taking up a regular Pilates practice can help bring awareness to your daily posture.
“Learning where your neck and shoulders should sit and how to utilise your abdominal muscles to support your back when working can prevent injuries.
“Pilates can also assist with mobilising the spine and bringing some strength and fluidity back into your movements.”
Practicing what she preaches, Rhiannon has personally struggled with posture at her workplace since becoming more desk-bound but admits it’s not so easy to maintain a focus on alignment — rather it’s about creating ‘moments’ in your day to help you pay attention.
“I noticed that whilst having the knowledge and awareness of how to prevent poor postural habits, I was soon becoming engrossed in my computer screen and suffering from neck and shoulder pain.
“I have had to make a conscious effort to get up and walk around the office, making sure I speak to people in person rather than emailing. I also set a reminder on my outlook (or phone) to remind myself to stretch my back and take the opportunity to have a quick stretch when I can (at the photocopier or making a cup of tea).
“There is time in the day to reset your body you just have to be creative to find what works for you and your work environment.
“And most importantly breathe! If you can remember to breathe fully, you will be able to prevent stress and tension creeping up to your shoulder and neck.”
- Neck Stretch: Draw chin in and rotate head from side to side adding a stretch if needed.
- Back Extensions: Place hands on lower back and extend into a slight back extension. Focus on sending the sternum up to the ceiling and keep your abdominals working to support the lower back.
- Back Rotation: Done standing or sitting, place one hand on opposite knee or thigh and the other hand behind you. Rotate your spine and head as if you were trying to look behind you.
Rhiannon Hooper is a qualified Stott Pilates Instructor. Trained as a contemporary dancer in the UK, after suffering minor back injuries she began incorporating Pilates into her practice. Her classes focus on strengthening all areas of the body, relieving unnecessary tension and creating a self awareness to last all day.